A 42-year prison plea deal ended Monday what would have been a death penalty trial for a West Palm Beach man Louis Crawford who stabbed his estranged girlfriend to death.
Crawford left the woman’s body for her 9-year-old daughter to find after she returned from playing outside their West Palm Beach apartment. Palm Beach Post reported.
Louis Crawford, 49, accepted the plea deal for 42 years in prison on what was supposed to be the 1st day of jury selection in his trial, where prosecutors would have asked jurors to give Crawford the death penalty if they convicted him as charged of first-degree murder.
Instead, Crawford pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder as part of an agreement between Assistant State Attorney Aleathea McRoberts and his attorneys, Edward Reagan and Robert Gershman. Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes accepted Crawford’s plea and also granted a defense request to send him to the Blackwater River Correctional Institution in Florida’s panhandle.
The deal comes more than 5 years after the death of Shandreka Wilkerson, 36, who two days before her death had talked to cops about getting a restraining order against Crawford after he threatened her on Facebook. Wilkerson and her daughter had moved into an apartment on 20th Street hoping to escape Crawford, who Wilkerson said had become violent with her when they used to live together.
On the day she died, Wilkerson called the police and told them that someone in the apartment leasing office had unwittingly given Crawford her address when he called posing as someone from the Urban League of Palm Beach County.
According to arrest reports, Wilkerson also warned her daughter to be careful that morning when she went to play outside, because Crawford, who they called Justin, may have found them. When the girl returned home, according to police, she found her mother bleeding from multiple stab wounds to her chest and also saw Crawford running away.
Crawford, who told authorities he stabbed estranged girlfriend in the kitchen after they argued, had been set to stand trial at least 2 previous times this year, but the case was postponed both times.
The last time his trial was set to begin, jail deputies had to take Crawford to the jail hospital after he complained of chest pains. Days earlier, he had rejected a plea deal of 45 years behind bars.